Korean Spa Day: My New Starring Role in “Naked and Afraid”

For the first couple of months of this blog, I was SWIMMING in ideas. I was diving into a pool of glorious, weirdly desirable fads. I plowed through those puppies and found myself asking WHAT NOW?! Luckily I live in a house of brilliant trend-setting geniuses.

When I was going to mope town about not having a perfect trend picked out for this week, my friends Emma and Max opened their incredibly attractive and intelligent mouths and recommended I do something terrifying and exhilarating: go to a Korean spa.

Perhaps it was because of the Conan O’Brien sketch on the subject, or the way Korean Beauty regimens have been all the rage on my frequented blogs, but I certainly have felt like people have been mummering about the mysterious experience that is the Korean Spa circuit.

I truly had no clue what to expect aside from a perfect (as always) joke from the sitcom guru that is Happy Endings (“Well, I didn’t like Korean spas until I learned how to say the phrase, ‘I don’t wanna bleed today’.” Quotes aside, do you know what kind of things come up when you google “happy endings korean spa”? It aint pretty).

Luckily, Groupon was offering a well timed deal to get me in for a few bucks only. Unluckily, I wanted to get the “full experience” which to me means buying the shit out of a body scrub/massage/facial combo.

The Angelic Emma assure me it would be an experience for the ages, while urging me not to watch the Conan video before I went.

If I could tell you one thing I knew for sure, it was that I was required to be naked, and I promised myself no tears would be involved [this time]! I would walk in and be completely natural about the whole deal.giphy

I drove to my fate,  and I was prepared for one of two scenarios: 1) My eyes would be opened to a world of soft skin and no shame and strong feminist values held by incredibly soft feminist women. 2) I would be laughed out of the spa for having cellulite.

I descended to the subterranean Lady Level where I grabbed myself some shorts and a towel.  Having celebrated Pesach at two seders and Easter at one extravagant lady-bitching brunch, I knew this child-size towel wasn’t going to cut it. Luckily, the Heaven-Sent Emma told me a well kept secret about asking for a bathrobe. Success!

I undressed with mega-confidence like I owned the place, to which the spa responded with a swift “LOL!” by making sure every path I turned down had at least three mirrors. “Let’s do this” I whispered to my nude self- and entered into…THE SPA.

The lady-only section of the spa consisted of a hot tub, a warm tub, a cold tub, a dry sauna, a steam sauna, and about 50 open air showers facing well lit mirrors. Was this some sort of creative torture chamber?

Armed with knowledge from the pictured google search, I showered, IMG_0924hopped in the hot tub, then the cold tub, then warm tub, and repeated a few times. I showered and then went into the dry sauna and where they were playing a Korean television show about puppies. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do to not verbally react to the sight of puppies.

I could go on and on about what I did in my hours at the Wi Spa but I think at this point you’re probably wondering about how it felt to be SO TOTALLY NAKED AMONGST 1000 NAKED PEOPLE. Ugh finnnneeee I will indulge you, you filthy animals!

The spa was filled with every which type of woman. There were obviously many asian women, but they were plenty of white ladies too, along with all sorts of latinas and black women as well. We could’ve been the cast of a Disney sitcom about friendship.

And sure there were many girls my age, but there were children too, and women who looked like they were pushing 80.

As far as shapes go, you couldn’t find a more diverse setting. There were curvy ladies like me, there were skinny little minis, and there big ladies owning it with everything they had.

You could definitely tell who among us were not regulars. The tell-tale sign was how much you were looking at other people. I mean…I only know this because I was STARING at everyone! Naked people are so weird!! Did you guys know this?!

Aside from being impressed with those who didn’t feel like they needed to survey their surroundings, I also found myself completely in awe of the skin of the older women. They looked like babies! Babies with old lady heads! I know that sounds like a walking nightmare but it’s truly very impressive in practice.

I knew that I would have to spend 20 minutes in the warm tub before my treatments, so I decided to use the next hour to look upstairs.

Upstairs was already not my favorite because 1) I was finally getting comfy in my own skin 2) there are male humans up there and 3) They make you wear this outfit:

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I thought the Wi Spa and I were friends, so I have no idea why it would insist on me wearing knee length shorts. But one thing was clear…there was food up there, and I wanted to eat it.

The upstairs (or Jimjilbang) had children running around like crazy, a floor full of sleeping people, a line of library style internet computers, many shelves of manga, a restaurant, and 5 additional saunas.

Left to Right: Salt Sauna (filled with savory people), Jade Sauna (filled with the scent of green tea and this strange couple stretching each other), Clay Sauna (filled with the noise of people comically slipping on marbles of clay trying to escape)

Left to Right: Salt Sauna (filled with savory people), Jade Sauna (filled with the scent of green tea and this strange couple stretching each other), Clay Sauna (filled with the noise of people comically slipping on marbles of clay trying to escape)

I awkwardly walked into each sauna for a pathetic amount of time, took weird uninformational photos, then ran full speed to the restaurant where I ordered the cheapest thing that would have kimchi on the side.

I ate that shit on the rooftop hang-spot, then fell asleep in the sunlight for an hour.

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It was time to prepare for my body skin shlop off. Armed with the knowledge that Conan did not enjoy it- I was scared as a little baby (which I hopefully would be looking like afterwards).

I waited in the hot tub and surveyed my surroundings. I found myself more jealous of the confidence of the older crowd. Ladies had no hang ups. Just as a sneaking suspicion begun to creep up on me that perhaps these older woman looked better naked than I did…my number was called.

I looked up to see an elderly asian woman in black lacey underwear- God had never taken a more appropriate form. God led me into the back room which was a well-lit (NO!) wide open space (GASP!) filled with tables covered with pink plastic (THE HORROR!) with oiled up nudies all over them (fine by me.).

I should tell you that I was dreading this moment. I have v v v v v sensitive skin (and the heart to match). I also have eczema to the extreme. Xczema, if you will.

BUT I HAVE AN EXCELLENT REPORT and it is that the body scrub was freaking delightful! Conan was being a weakling! It just felt like body scratches!

God scratched me so good that I could feel the dead skin cells piling up all around me. Every once in a while she would pour a bucket of warm water over me to clean the dead skin away! Being on a plastic table completely naked can be a little chilly, so every time she covered me in warm water you could hear an audible “mmmmmmmm” of satisfaction escape me. She loved that, and cracked up every time! Korean spas are the loudest places on earth. Delightful!

After my scrub down, she oiled me up and threw some cucumbers on my face. The cucs were great, but the massage I could’ve gone without. Lady was a little harsh. I missed my full body scratches:(

After my time was up, I pulled $20 out of my ass to tip the good woman (kidding, they tally it all up at the end of your visit and you put the tip on your credit card) and she recommended I go brush my teeth with salt.

No, but really.

I had only heard fables of this practice. Salt brushing is apparently an ancient technique to keep your chompers happy until you’re 117.

God directed me to the salt brush area where she watched over me as I grabbed a one-time-use toothbrush, put some toothpaste on it, then dipped it in salt and scrubbed. She was so elated the whole time that I gave her yet another “mmmmmm” and she cracked up again! If this was an elaborate prank, it was now worth it.

Overall I had decided this was an exceptional day. My skin was pink and soft and happy, and my body was rested as fuck. Nobody judged me, or even paid attention to me at all! #THEDREAM.

Judgments were reserved for those who didn’t shower between sauna to tub trips, and starers like me.

It’s amazing how equalizing it is to be naked together. You can see expectations fly out the window. It’s what the Dove marketing department wishes their campaign could achieve. Seeing so many women’s bodies in so many shapes, ages, colors, and sizes made me realize that we’re all kind of gross. But, we’re not as gross as naked men, so we good.

I think I found the answer to my body issues. Would I ever venture here with my friends? Depends how drunk I was. Luckily, The Wi Spa is open 24 hours a day, so stumbling in after a Korea Town karaoke night is completely feasible. Korean Spas are a place of magical healing, I them it two nips up (I deleted and re-wrote this sentence about 8 times. I’M KEEPIN IT).

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-CCL

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